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October 08, 2013

Turkey Lifts Longtime Ban on Head Scarves

by VOA News

Turkey has lifted a decades-old ban on head scarves for female workers in state offices, ending a longstanding restriction that has polarized Turkish society.

The change went into effect Tuesday.  However, the ban remains in place for judges, prosecutors, police and military personnel.

The ban, which dates back almost 90 years to the early days of the Turkish Republic, has been one of the most emotionally charged issues in Turkey.  It has long divided the country, pitting a rising group of religiously observant Turks against a once-powerful secular elite.

The law had kept many women from holding public service jobs.  But secularists see the abolition of the ban as evidence of the government pushing an Islamist agenda.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long sought to address the concerns of the observant Muslims who helped sweep his Justice and Development Party into a parliamentary majority in 2002.

Religious attire was abolished by Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as part of an effort to pivot the country toward the West by promoting secularism in the majority Muslim country.